July 13, 2024

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A 16-year-old qualifies for the men’s 400 meters final

A 16-year-old qualifies for the men’s 400 meters final

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Eugene – at 16 years old, Quincy Wilson He competes against adults almost twice his age at the Olympic Trials. But the huge gap in age and experience doesn’t seem to bother him.

Wilson broke his own under-18 world record in the 400 meters in Sunday’s semifinal by crossing the finish line in a personal best time of 44.59 seconds. Friday set the record by winning his heat with a time of 44.66.

“It means a lot to me because it means my hard work has paid off,” Wilson said after breaking his own record on Friday. “I’m just excited for myself.”

Wilson, who attends the Bullis School in Maryland, finished behind Bryce Dedmon (44.44) and Vernon Norwood (44.50), but his time was good enough to qualify for the final.

Not surprisingly, Wilson is admired by his rivals.

“It’s amazing,” said Olympic gold medalist Michael Norman, who also reached the final. “A 16-year-old comes here and competes like a real competitor, and he doesn’t let the moment get too big, he lives in the moment.” “It’s great to see young talent like him stepping up and pushing us to run a little faster, taking us out of our comfort zone. I think he has a bright future.”

Wilson sounded confident in his interview after the semi-final heats were completed and his place in the final was secured.

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“Today I came here, I gave it everything I had,” Wilson told NBC. “I knew the last 100 meters were going to be tough. I’m competing with them. I’m grateful to be in this moment.”

The men’s 400m final is Monday at 9:59pm ET on NBC.

“I’m just running for my life out there. The race plan went out the window. (Monday) I’ve got a lot of things I can do to improve myself,” Wilson said. “I’m in the biggest final in the world (Monday). At 16 years old, I’m thrilled now.” …It is one of the happiest days of my life.”

The Olympic champion does not have a driver’s license yet

In some ways, Wilson is similar to his fellow competitors: He is repped by a major apparel company (New Balance), after signing a nothing deal last September.

In other ways, it’s very different. He’s getting straight, for example… because he’s still juggling full-time school and coaching. Also note: He doesn’t have his driver’s license yet, and isn’t sure when he will get one. He doesn’t have time to study or practice driving, what with trying to make the Olympic team and everything.

Wilson is trained at Bullis by Joe Lee, former youth pastor who had been at the Potomac, Maryland, private school for 11 years. Before Wilson, Lee coached Wilson’s cousin, Shania Halla runner who starred on Oregon’s powerhouse varsity track team the past four years, helping the Ducks win two Pac-12 relay championships.

After his opening round on Friday, Wilson was asked if he held back at all considering it was just heat. I smile.

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“It’s a different game. I’m not in high school anymore, I’m running with the big dogs now, so I’ve got to do my best,” he said.

He has shaken off worries about whether he will be able to fully recover.

“I know my training and my training,” he said. “They put me in the right place.”

This applies to the mental aspect as well. When asked how nervous he was on a scale of 1 to 10 after his first race, he again showed off his huge smile before declaring: “Maybe like a 2.”

“I only race against bigger guys,” Wilson said, referring to his competitors’ physical stature and brand names. “But for me, everyone sets their height the same way I train, and I train as hard as they train.”

He makes it clear that he’s not here just to enjoy the experience, either. He wants to win.

Can Wilson make the Olympic team?

Norman, who competed in his first trials at the age of 18, seemed somewhat skeptical that the 16-year-old would claim a place on the Olympic team in the 400 metres.

When asked if he viewed Wilson as a competitor, Norman was blunt.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “There are people fighting for money now. He has reached the final. It is very difficult to say. This is probably the first time he has done three rounds. I remember (my first time trial), after I did three rounds in the 200 metres, I was… My cooking.”

But he wasn’t ready to write Wilson off completely.

“Kids are different now, so it’s definitely possible,” Norman said. “He can definitely sneak into the relay spot for sure.”

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High school track phenoms are rare in Olympic track and field trials, but not entirely unheard of: In 2016, 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin-Levron finished third in the 400 hurdles, qualifying for the Rio Games. She did not reach the final in Rio. (McLaughlin-Levrone will likely win the 400 hurdles later this week.) McLaughlin-Lefron was the youngest athlete to make Team USA’s Olympic roster in 36 years.

Erion Knighton, one of the top 200 runners in the world, appeared on Tokyo’s list as a high school student, and finished fourth in Japan. Knighton won bronze at the 2022 World Championships. He is entered in the 200 class later this week.

If Wilson qualifies for Paris, he will be the youngest member ever on the U.S. Olympic track team.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Tyler Dragon on X @TheTylerDragon.

Email Lindsay Schnell at [email protected] and follow her on social media @lindsay_schnell